Boston Mayor Menino Announces $1 Million Grant from Partners HealthCare to Fund Program in 23 Public Schools

December 3, 2012

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced on November 30 that Partners HealthCare, with its founding hospitals Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospital, is committing $1 million to the Boston Public Health Commission for a collaborative effort among the two organizations and the Boston Public Schools to implement Open Circle, a social and emotional learning program developed and run out of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, for 7,000 students in 23 Boston public elementary and K-8 schools.

“This program will give Boston’s students another tool in their tool kits to help them to make good choices,” Mayor Menino said. “This is a great example of how we can all come together and find ways to support our kids.”

Coordinated by the Boston Public Health Commission’s Division of Violence Prevention, the collaborative will strengthen students’ skills so that they are empowered to promote positive behaviors and healthy relationships at school and in their community. By focusing on social and emotional learning, the organizations hope that educators can proactively address conflicts before they come to a head, instead of addressing the negative outcomes after the fact. 

The two-year grant will provide training and professional development for 750 teachers, teaching assistants and principals to implement the evidence-based Open Circle program. At the heart of the curriculum are 15- to 20-minute classroom meetings led by homeroom teachers twice per week. These interactive meetings include group discussions, role-playing, children’s literature, and activities to teach important skills such as listening, sharing, cooperating, speaking up, calming down, expressing anger appropriately, recognizing dangerous and destructive behavior, and problem solving. These lessons are further reinforced throughout the school day as all staff members integrate the promotion, modeling, and labeling of positive social and emotional skills into their teaching practice, their relationships with students, and their relationships with colleagues and parents.  

“This expansion of Open Circle’s work in Boston Public Schools reflects the Wellesley Centers for Women mission of making the world a better place for women and girls, their families and communities, through research, theory, and action that increases justice and well-being,” notes Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., executive director of the Centers. “For 25 years now, Open Circle has helped elementary schools create highly engaging classroom and school communities across the region. It’s exciting for us to collaborate with Partners HealthCare, the Boston Public Health Commission, and Boston Public Schools to ensure that this work reaches more young children, teachers, and communities in the city.”

Read more on the WCW website.